LSPR re-working girls basketball league

rpulley@lsjournal.comJuly 25, 2014 

Lee’s Summit’s parks department wants to revive its girls’ basketball league because participation has been falling for a decade.

The league drew more than 500 girls in 2004 but the number of participants has eroded to 225 in 2013. The department offers the recreational league for girls in first through eighth grades, which has rules to insure every girl gets playing time.

The parks staff gave its analysis of the problem July 23 to the Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Board at its regular meeting, offering options for improving the league, or helping a volunteer sports association take over, or abandon it entirely.

Rob Freeborn, supervisor of recreation, told the board that the department got information from 13 leagues on the Missouri and Kansas side in this area for comparison.

It looked at everything from price, to the number of practices, league rules, whatever might be affecting girls’ enjoyment of the games or limiting sign-ups.

Possible changes include:

forming teams based on schools attended instead of a draft

lower fees and a shorter season for first and second grades

expanding the league to include high school girls

The department also wants to enhance training for volunteer coaches, in cooperation with the coaches from Lee’s Summit high schools.

Freeborn said switching away from a draft allows girls to be on teams with their friends from school, which the department thinks will make it more fun for them.

The board liked that idea but discussion centered on fees.

The programs’ annual budget of about $30,000 nets about $3,000 profit for the department, the staff report said.

Lee’s Summit’s fee for that program was high at $139 compared to $92.84 for average of area leagues, although the area’s highest was $170.

Surveys of participants after the season generally give it high marks.

Freeborn said the fees might be discouraging some families from signing up at all.

Brian Hutchin said the department shouldn’t make a profit on the program.

“It’s a development program for kids, let’s treat it that way,” Hutchin said.

Marly McMillen, another board member, said cutting the fee, if only slightly, might help.

Parks Administrator Tom Lovell said the staff would look closer at the program’s fee structure and the board plans to discuss the league again at a future meeting.

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